A recent email from a regular reader drew my attention to today’s topic. In his email he said that his wife who takes Warfarin, had a very bad reaction to the current flu jab. This prompted me to do a quick search on the Internet and I was surprised at what I found.
It seems that the flu jab may be anything but harmless for those who are on blood-thinning medication.
Vital information for pensioners on anti-stroke drugs
A recent article in the Telegraph stated that a number of pensioners have had serious interactions with the flu jab while taking stroke prevention drugs such as Warfarin.
The statistics speak for themselves. The reports of adverse reactions range back to 2001, and to date 449 interactions have been reported. And in 20 cases the reported reactions to the flu jab have been fatal. Pensioners have died from blood poisoning, sudden death, pneumonia, heart attack and pulmonary embolism (a clot in the lung).
Incidences such as these have led the government’s Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) to run an inquiry into the safety of the flu jab for pensioners on Warfarin.
The committee were worried about the risk of fatal internal bleeding in over 65s on stroke medication. The well-respected medical reference the British National Formulary also states that the flu vaccine can at times, strengthen the effect of Warfarin.
So with all these reports of internal bleeding and death, why haven’t we heard much about this risk? In the run up to winter there have been many campaigns and much publicity surrounding the flu jab but this potentially life-saving information has hardly flashed across the front pages.
It seems there has been more concern over the threat of bird flu, which in reality is probably less of a threat to pensioners in this country who get the flu jab and are taking stroke medication.
What really gets my goat is that if there was an interaction between a natural supplement and the flu jab, you could bet on a deluge of media attention. But surprisingly, the vaccines reaction with Warfarin is not listed in the Government’s Green Book. Doctors refer to this book for information on drug interactions.
At the end of the inquiry the CSM decided not to alert GPs to the Warfarin-flu jab interaction as the majority of the medical studies they examined did not confirm the effect. Well, from where I’m sitting, a small risk is still a risk. And when the risk may involve internally bleeding to death Id say it was worth taking note of.
I’m not saying that every pensioner taking anti-stroke drugs should avoid the flu jab at all costs. Just be aware that there is a risk. Any elderly person in your family on blood-thinning medication may just benefit from this information.
Boost immunity to beat the flu
If you choose not to get the flu jab this winter there are natural alternatives available.
If you do pick up a flu virus, you won’t necessarily come down with the flu. Whether or not you become ill will depend on how well your immune system deals with the virus. So you might say that a virus doesn’t give you the flu – an immune system that doesn’t defeat the virus is what gives you the flu. The key is immunity.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) – an amino acid that naturally stimulates your body to produce glutathione – is a powerful antioxidant enzyme. Previous studies have shown that patients with ailments associated with a breakdown in the immune system are often deficient in their levels of glutathione.
NAC has been used for many years to treat chronic respiratory ailments with its ability to break up and dissolve the mucous that contributes to pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma and sinusitis.
And just a few years ago, an Italian study found that supplementation with N-acetylcysteine (NAC) significantly increased immunity to flu infection. Over a six-month trial, only 29 per cent of those taking NAC developed symptoms of the flu versus 51 per cent of those taking a placebo. Of the 262 people taking part in this study, three-quarters were over the age of 65.
300 mg of NAC per day is probably both effective and safe for most people. But it’s always a good idea to consult a trusted healthcare provider before beginning any new supplement regimen.
Keep flu at bay with natural supplements
In addition to NAC supplements, there are a number of other supplements that may help keep the flu away from the door. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene have all been shown to help fight colds and flu.
In previous e-alerts I’ve told you about the advantages of selenium – a naturally occurring mineral with antioxidant properties. A study has concluded that selenium may stop viruses from mutating and becoming more potent.
And finally, we have echinacea – the herb that’s become so well known in recent years for its apparent ability to help reduce the length and severity of colds and flu.
How this is done is not yet known, although some studies have indicated that echinacea may stimulate the production of white blood cells that are necessary to effectively manage viruses. An American study on echinacea was conducted at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. It purported to be one of the first human studies of this herb, and the researchers concluded that the effectiveness of echinacea may lie in its ability to strengthen a specific part of the immune system that is known to attack viruses.
So if the idea of getting a flu shot is reassuring to you, don’t let me stop you. But there’s a very good chance that all the flu protection you need can be achieved by getting the right amount of sleep, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a light to moderate exercise regimen, and supplementing with a few proven helpers in the yearly fight between us and the flu bug.
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